If we can’t spend Labour Day wallowing in the past then what good is it? Besides, there’s a lot to be learned back there. When considering suburban poverty and how we got to be where we are it’s hard to ask for a better starting point than a particular item in the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. From late 1954, this News Magazine feature examines the state of housing in the entire country. The music and voice over evoke the seriousness of war time. Sure, there is a Levittownesque optimism but there’s also a grim tone regarding affordability and the extent of the costly undertaking of keeping the working families of a growing country properly housed. The persistence of 1930s-style poverty wherein “housewives struggle against decay and filth” is openly acknowledged, too. The latter did much to drive the exertions required to build suburbia and is easily forgotten in 2011. Two approaches to housing Canadians are seen. Public housing – urban redevelopment in Regent Park – and private suburban housing in Don Mills. The latter was among Canada’s first couple of planned suburbs.
Historica is the semi-regular feature on suburban-poverty.com that helps you learn how we got here in the first place. Levittown was North America’s first major post-war mass suburb. This short film features Ford tractors in use during Levittown’s construction. It begins with a drive out of New York City to the countryside where a new way of life was being built. The scene is almost cute by comparison to the monster home- and big box retail-dominated Edge Cities of today. You’ll also meet Ed, Ralph and Teeny, the guys who built Levittown. Thanks, guys!
We thought it might be useful to look at popular culture for evidence of suburban poverty. Much of what you come across in popular culture is aspirational, delusional even, when it comes to portraying class and social conditions. Among the things we found is this resentful dirge from fringe Republican Hank Williams Junior. The song refers to ‘this town’ but we see symbols and elements of suburban life. Williams croons from inside, or next to, a late 1950s Cadillac, there is a motor vehicle in every scene practically. Single family dwellings and working people populate the video. Things don’t look too hot – the repo man is after the pickup and there’s no work and apparently Williams paid taxes. Awful to watch and awful to listen to. A song and video like this is produced because nobody is living what it represents? …more to come from popular culture!
Tactical Team 4 from suburban-poverty.com fired up the boilers in the Taurus and hit a semi-abandoned orchard north of the Greater Toronto Area this morning with excellent results. A large quantity of apples was picked and delivered to a busy drop in centre serving many low income (and otherwise vulnerable) people in Mississauga. We’ve noticed the lack of fresh food and low level of food literacy among the service population at the drop in and the appearance of a ton of crisp fresh apples created a happy buzz. One that will probably last for a couple of days. Those dependant on social agencies, food banks and charities for basic necessities often encounter too much in the way of salty canned and prepared food, Kraft Dinner and other carbohydrates. There’s a risk of encountering outdated food from such sources as well. We’ve already learned a little about the complications of providing social services in suburban areas so the value of using some creativity to find alternative sources of good, fresh food is enormous. An apple is such a simple healthy thing if you think about it. No packaging or preparation required.
While we found it a pleasure to make a contact, secure and then deliver some fruit we realize we are amateurs at this. See posting (30) and here are two Canadian examples:
Not far from the tree Toronto, ON foragers
Fruit for thought Regina, SK
Check out this video as well, it features veggie gardening in suburban Columbus, OH:
The mass appearance of one begat the other and so we find the fate of the middle class and the fate of suburban life conjoined in a fashion that would have given Eng and Chang Bunker a good fright. You could not have had one without the other. Moving forward into the Long Emergency and a world of expensive petroleum, general resource depletion, traumatic economics, badly impaired credit/financial systems and shock doctrines we may end up losing much of both suburbia and its most loyal customers. Leave it to The Atlantic Monthly to be a source of timely content for us yet again.
Can the Middle Class Be Saved?
“The Great Recession has accelerated the hollowing-out of the American middle class. And it has illuminated the widening divide between most of America and the super-rich. Both developments herald grave consequences. Here is how we can bridge the gap between us.”Elizabeth Warren is an academic expert with a specialty in credit law and consumer debt/bankruptcy issues. She was in the documentary Maxed Out and the link below takes you to a presentation she gave in 2008. 57 minutes that will open your eyes. If you have the stomache for the details of the destruction of the middle class in America block out the time. Seriously, this wonderful, articulate, compassionate and very smart woman should be the president of the USA, not that nice, utterly feckless Obama guy.
The coming collapse of the middle class